Romance Finally Breaks WaPo's 'No Self-Published Books' Rule

Having publishers on my second and third books, deciding to self-publish my first feminist romantic adventure novel began as a leap of faith. It's nothing like the first time I self-published non-fiction back in 2000 when options were few and the stigma of self-publishing was real. Today, self-publishing's "progressive and disruptive vitality" fits my artistic renegade spirit, but shifting to romance after non-fiction came with some trepidation.

The Washington Post announcing that Sarah MacLean, their romance reviewer, chose a self-published romance novel for their "best of 2015" reveals the vibrancy and relevancy of the genre.

"You asked me to choose the five best romances of the year, and I did," she tells me. " 'Serving Pleasure' is an excellent example of the best of romance." And MacLean isn't surprised that the romance genre is the first one to break Book World's "No Self-Published" rule. For her, it's just another example of the genre's progressive and disruptive vitality. [The Washington Post]

Having been Relationship Consultant for LA WEEKLY back in the '90s, then the nation's top alternative newsweekly, and going on to spend 10 years in the dating, sex, and relationship worlds, help me craft the exact storyline I wanted.

I knew that moving away from my comfortable world of having a publisher to self-publishing would be a shock, because of all the hats you have to wear as an author to do it right.

Most importantly, I had to figure how to write a feminist romance adventure, because there's no HEA (happily ever after) for an independent woman without being feminist, too. An article from The Atlantic explains.

Heroines making choices are critical for feminist romance authors. Dryden says that she, like MacLean, writes heroines who make choices, "even if the choices available to her are limited by convention or circumstance. She acts, rather than be acted upon." Anna Cowan, who blogs regularly about romance, will soon release her debut novel, My Lady Untamed. Cowan believes that feminist romance "tells its readers: you can make your own decisions, and expect your world to respect your right and ability to make your own decisions." Victoria Dahl is a bestselling author of both historical romance and contemporary including A Rake's Guide to Pleasure and Good Girls Don't. Dahl says that "my characters are always, always feminists. Not in the declarative sense, but in the living-that-life-every-day sense." She says her "books aren't about selfless women who are just trying to do what's right for others. They want to do what's right for themselves."

But let's face it, romance hasn't gotten much respect from the legacy press world, and self-published romance is hard to get reviewed, which is why The Washinton Post news is so important.

In the mainstream press, romance novels are a joke. Despite raking in $1.08 billion in 2013, the industry is still derided as worthless. Maybe it's because 84% of all romance readers are women, and romance writers are mostly women, as well. No, wait. There is no "maybe." That's exactly why. [Huffington Post]

One of my theories is the sexual immaturity of our puritanical culture. It permeates our politics and our congressional policy, state and federal, even while shows like Scandal, The Affair, and Satisfaction break new ground for women, romance, relationships, and sexuality.

The Washington Post including a self-published romance novel in Sarah MacLean's "best of 2015" furthers the growth of the romance genre, even if MacLean "didn't think she was doing anything particularly radical by including a self-published book."

"Because romance readers are so voracious," she says, "we tend to be the genre that blazes trails in publishing. Mass-market trim size, e-books, experimental pricing: These are all trends that romance came to first, so it just makes sense that excellence in self-publishing exists here."

Taylor Marsh is a political writer and cultural voyeur. Her new novel, Below the Beltway, is now available for pre-order on